Hidden Wonders

Privacy·Ramble·Society·Technology

Reject Smartphones


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What kind of person do you want to be? How do you want to raise your children? Where do you want to go in life? What do you whisper to yourself late at night?

A few universal statements about your answers to these questions:

  1. They are subjective: everyone will answer them differently, and there’s no right or wrong answer in the objective sense.

  2. They’re part of what makes us human: dreams, aspirations, lingering regrets, there is nothing more sacred, nothing more deserving of secrecy, than one’s innermost thoughts and emotions, and the foundations which shape them.

  3. NO ONE, not a soul, has the right or obligation to know your answers to these questions.

  4. In fact, it is a natural right that the answers to these questions be kept secret if we as individuals should so choose.

  5. By continuing to use smartphones (as the technology is currently implemented), we have given away these answers to everybody, and our natural right is continually taken away as it becomes more and more impossible to exist without an internet presence in industrialized societies.

What follows should really have some sources if I was less lazy, but these sorts of rants of mine are meant to be my pure, unadulterated thoughts. My sources should be easy to find with a quick Internet search related to what I’m talking about. This isn’t conspiracy, this is reality or, at the very least, an extremely likely condition in which we now live.

My articles on Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit have gone over how certain websites are tracking you and making your life worse overall. This is true for most Internet usage regardless of if it’s on a phone or a desktop, so what is it that makes phones so much worse than their more traditional counterparts?

You see, smartphones are perfect tracking devices. Your location is at all times being broadcasted to your cellphone provider via cell tower connections, your phone maker (Samsung, Apple, etc), the maker of the OS of your phone (Apple, Google), and whatever apps you may have given location permission to on your device (Uber or Google Maps are common examples, but there are many more). This location data is then, in most cases, sold to the highest bidder: governments (alphabet boys have openly stated they contact third parties for information on their citizens and other countries citizens), advertisers, researchers, and, really, whoever wants the data. In some cases, data is sent to other nearby devices for the express purpose of locating your device (look into, for example, how Apple’s Airtags or contact tracing work).

This data is supposedly “anonymized,” but it is fact that these anonymization techniques are not impervious and can easily lead to someone being identified. If your neighbor knew you where going on a trip to a certain beach in Hawaii and looked at the location data overtime, there would likely not be many people who would be at the beach at that exact time and then be back wherever you live later on. Anonymization algorithms attempt to hide as much personal information as possible but are ultimately flawed: having studied them myself, I know that these algorithms are typically more in the interest of providing the researchers with good data than in providing a study’s participants with proper anonymity (rather than achieving both as these algorithms and those who use them claim). The only ethical decision that can be reached by an honest researcher is that this data cannot be used because it is impossible to use it and not violate the privacy rights of a study’s participants, but ethics can never stop researchers, advertisers, or governments from getting what they want. The best anonymization algorithm is not ever sharing the data with third parties in the first place.

One may think “I have never participated in such a study, so why should I care?” The answer to this is that you probably have without knowing. If you read the terms of services you’ve agreed to——for proprietary operating systems like iOS or Android, or for intrusive apps like Facebook or Instagram——you will probably find that you’ve given these apps and operating systems the ability to use the data they collect in studies. I hope to have made clear that if any of these apps or operating systems that collect location data from you say that this data will be released to third parties but somehow “anonymized”, these companies are lying to you because there is no way to truly anonymize this data.

I’ve rambled about location data a lot in particular, but it does not take an intelligent person to extrapolate this line of thinking to all other types of data your phone can extract: audio, video, files on your device, your usage habits. These phones use what is called proprietary software, which means that all of this malicious activity can be going one without any way for us to know for sure if its happening or not and leaving no way to disable these malicious features. Looking at the terms of service for these devices would certainly make it clear they can legally be sending all of this data at all times to their servers, and with storage so cheap they definitely have the space for it. The solution, at first, to this is using free software or open source software, which can be checked to ensure your rights are not being violated. However, even if you are using a free software phone (Graphene/Calyx/LineageOS, or a Linux phone) your location is still being sent to cell towers constantly, and there is no doubt that this data is getting sold to third parties such as governments. There is no way around it: smartphones, even dumb-phones, work to erode your natural rights and freedoms.

If I went and told this to a certain friend of mine, she would respond with “so what? I have nothing to hide.” She has a doctorate, but she’s retarded (at least, in regards to technology). Personally, I would just prefer that none of my data get sent out into the world because I think it’s creepy and unnecessary. I want that level of control over my data personally: however, not everyone believes the same of theirs. So, lets assume you’re like my friend and you don’t care if the CIA, FBI, Google, Apple, and any other thousands of advertisement companies have such detailed data about you personally. Why, then, should you care about this data collection, what’s so bad about using smartphones if you have nothing to hide? (You most certainly do have something to hide, everyone does, but lets assume you don’t want to admit it for some reason).

I’ve rambled a lot, and probably lost track of the original reasons I wanted to write this article.

The first reason why I think smartphones are evil is because of data tracking——not just of one person, but of an entire family, entire city, entire country, entire world. I think it’s a problem how people just sit there and scroll on their smartphones blankly, eating what an algorithm feeds them. This algorithm takes into account all of the aforementioned data such as location, web history, and more to give you whatever content you want to view. This is problematic because, as a result, these algorithms begin to tell you how to think, what to think, and why to think it. You lose your individuality, your humanity, and become a mediocre individual incapable of independent thought, unable to postulate an argument of your own. In the past few years I’ve encountered a number of such individuals: people who are detached from existence, blank individuals who just drift along with trends dictated to them by their smartphones. I’m concerned by this trend in people. It frightens me. It makes me feel like we’re in the process of losing something very important, something that I don’t want to lose, something that I don’t want anyone to lose. Humans should be free to think as they please and form their opinions organically based on the occurrences of their everyday lives, not force-fed what to think by a big-tech-billionaire. (This is actually a misnomer of sorts, even the people in charge of these companies have no idea exactly how their algorithms work).

I’ve forgotten the second reason.


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